Jones feeling closer to form

Matt Jones heard the criticism last week. The running back position hadn't lived up to expectations through the first three games of the season, and the sophomore wanted to change that against Kentucky. Will Muschamp wanted it, too. That's why he called Jones into his office early in the week to eliminate any hesitations Jones could have while carrying the ball.

It was similar to the conversation the two had near the midway point of the 2012 season. Muschamp noticed Jones running timid when he had the ball last year, and that needed to change if the Florida offense was going to improve.

The same changes needed to be made last week in practice.

"You need to cut it loose," Will Muschamp recalled telling Jones. "Just run the ball hard. Run it hard, cut it loose and go play. He looked pretty good to me."

It wasn't a surprise to Jones, who knew there needed to be improvement. He has felt better on the field every week, calling himself 70-80 percent back for the Miami game. However, after Florida's win over Kentucky, Jones said he was 95 percent back.

Even though it isn't 100 percent yet, Jones felt like he wasn't overwhelmed by thinking too much with the ball. He took the handoff and ran hard.

"The first two games I came back, I was timid and thinking too much," Matt Jones said. "He put me in his office Monday and said to turn it loose. Mistakes are going to happen, so just turn it loose. I took that into effect and that's what I did."

It looked like it on the ground.

Jones carried the ball 28 times for 176 yards and one touchdown, including a 67-yard run down the sideline that might have gone for a touchdown if he didn't trip over incidental contact with wide receiver Quinton Dunbar. Jones also credited quarterback Tyler Murphy for the play after he flipped it, running it to the left instead of the right as was called.

"I was trying to cut back and go the other way and beat the corner," Jones said. "Dunbar came across and was trying to block the corner, but I didn't really see him out of the corner of my eye. (Dunbar) hit my leg."

Getting back to 100 percent will only happen with more reps. Those will continue to come through practice and next week as Florida hosts Arkansas at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. The momentum from Saturday's strong performance gave him confidence on the field. As that confidence continues to come, Jones thinks he's on the verge of a break out.

"I'm at the peak of it now," Jones said. "I'm still iffy about some things, but I'm at the peak of it now where I just need a few big ones and I'm good."

The improved play of the Florida offensive line also helped in his big day. Right tackle Tyler Moore was back on the field, and the rest of the group continues to get healthier after being banged up in training camp and the early part of the season.

"It was nice to see the o-line healthy," Jones said. "For them to play together like that, it was awesome. I give all the credit to them. They were moving them all up and down the field with their blocks. It was great."

Saturday's performance -- even though it came with 176 yards -- didn't mean that he has arrived and is fully back to the form he showed at the end of the 2012 season. The coaches have remained patient with him, and after finally having a game that showed what Jones is capable of, Muschamp is optimistic about the rest of the season for his sophomore running back.

"It takes some time," Muschamp said. "We all knew that, but you don't want to admit it. When you miss over a month of exercise or activity, it's going to shut your body down. It takes you some time to respond. Real proud of Matt."

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